80’s Stadium Rock Tour Comes to The K

Joe Elliot, frontman for Def Leppard, headlining at The Stadium Show in Kansas City. Photo by Josh Chaikin

The 80’s were alive and well in Kansas City on Tuesday as the Stadium Tour rolled in; though the temperatures were over 100, over 30,000 music fans filled Kauffman Stadium for a long day of classic rock. The heat couldn’t keep fans away, which only ensured that it wasn’t only faces getting melted that night.

Though the Stadium was still fairly empty, things kicked off at 3:55, with CLASSLESS ACT. A newer addition to the bill, those who were not there really missed out. They won fans in Vince Neil, and Tommy Lee, with Vince saying, “[T]hese are young guys playing real rock ‘n’ roll, playing their own instruments, all that good stuff that you miss from the last 20+ years. These guys remind me of Mötley Crüe growing up and they definitely rock.” Forming in 2019, with their first single having dropped in 2021, CLASSLESS ACT wasted no time in making a name for themselves.

I first saw them a few months ago opening for DOROTHY at a small club in town, and to see them jump so quickly to the big stage was nothing short of amazing. At the time, I said that the small stage was really holding them back. The energy they put off said they wanted to run around, and they definitely used as much as they could.

Derek Day’s vocals take on a Kevin Dubro quality, with blistering guitar work from Dane Pieper, and Griffin Tucker, with Franco Gravante, and Chuck McKissock laying down the heavy beat. CLASSLESS ACT makes the perfect blend of the hard rock sound 80’s, with more than enough of a modern flair to appeal to the mainstream. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were headlining their own shows soon.

After a short break, and a few hundred more music fans arriving, the “Godmother of Punk”, the “original Riot Grrrl” JOAN JETT Acame out swinging with Victim of Circumstance, Joan’s voice was in top form, with THE BLACKHEARTS flawlessly executing the music we all loved on the albums.

DOUGIE NEEDLES, HAL B. SELZER, and MICHAEL MCDERMOTT (not that one) plowed through the hits, starting with Victim of Circumstance, done with as much ferocity as you could hope. Things slid quickly into a favorite from THE RUNAWAYS, Cherry Bomb. A crowd favorite with a lot of audience participation, or as much as there could be, with a still mostly empty stadium. Joan didn’t seem to mind, and played as hard as you would expect, cupping her ear for the chorus “Cherry bomb!” Us photographers were more than happy to oblige.

It was my first time seeing Joan live, and she did not disappoint. Though some 15 years ago, I attended a convention, whose after party got a little loud, prompting a call to hotel security after midnight from whom we presumed was Joan (who was rumored to be a few doors down). The stack of road cases stamped BLACKHEARTS in the lobby the next morning tells me this was the case. Sorry Joan!

With POISON taking the stage at 6:00, the stadium was now mostly full. Before they did, Kansas City native, and star of ABC’s Modern Family, Eric Stonestreet bounded onto the stage, decked out in a POISON shirt, enthusiastically introducing the band, into a dead mic.

For me, POISON was easily the most entertaining band of the night. Though I may have liked more of the songs from of the others on the bill, with the pure energy, and charisma from Bret Michaels, they easily go on top, and I’ve heard others say the same.

POISON‘s set included all the hits you would want to hear, kicking off with Look what the Cat Dragged In. By the time Bret was done with the song, he already pointed to half the people in the stadium, and six people at a gas station across the state line.

POISON kept their momentum rolling through their set, with Bret showing his appreciation for everyone showing up, saying “We have had the time of our life today,” and celebrated his longtime friendship with drummer Ricky Rockett, and his recovery from cancer.

As things mellowed out, Bret had his acoustic guitar out, told us it was time for “One big Kansas City BBQ karaoke,” leading us into Every Rose has It’s Thorn, when all the cell phones came out. Whether the concert goers were just using the flashlight instead of a lighter, or recording the song (or maybe both), I’m not sure, but they wanted to leave us with Nothin’ but a Good Time, and they did just that.

Down to the wire now, with several hours of rock behind us, we were just left waiting for the two headliners, the monsters of arena rock, DEF LEPPARD, and MÖTLEY CRÜE. The bands alternate nights headlining, and in Kansas City, with DEF LEPPARD closing, the Crue were up on deck.

MÖTLEY CRÜE on the Stadium Tour in Kansas City. Photo by Josh Chaikin

Much has been made about Vince Neil’s health and voice over the past few years, and with over a million people having seen the “Kickstart my Heart Misheard Lyrics” video on YouTube (which I will not be linking here), the question was, how would Vince be? Though not as in as top shape as some of the other performers, he was looking, and sounding, better than he did in that video, or when we saw him with his solo band at Rockfest.

MÖTLEY CRÜE was high-octane, with the near capacity stadium on their feet for the entire set. The stage is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Crue, except for the lack of fire. With the backup singers called The Nasty Habits, and giant mannequins coming from the stage floor for Girls, Girls, Girls, the show was certainly a spectacle.

Happily, Tommy Lee, who had to step out of shows earlier this month due to broken ribs, was able to play drums the entire set, except when he did his piano parts for Home Sweet Home. It was nice to see Tommy off the throne, and hear that played live, rather than using a pre-recorded track.

Mick Mars made a strong showing. Though he is visibly in pain, and not able to move very quickly, he effortlessly played the songs which made the band a household name. Nikki Sixx was in top form too, with thundering bass that made my solar plexus reverb two days later.

I was not able to see MÖTLEY CRÜE on their final tour in 2014, so I’m happy they decided to pull a KISS, and go on the road again. It’s always nice to see legends, but we also can’t expect them to sound like they did 30-40 years ago.

Now, you know I would be Foolin’ if I stopped there. Promises were made at the start of the article. You might be saying Let it Go with the puns, or going into a Hysteria right now. So, this can only mean one thing, the glam metal kings from across the pond, DEF LEPPARD were up.

If POISON were the most entertaining band of the night, DEF LEPPARD were the most on point musically. Joe Elliot’s unmistakable raspy vocals never strained, in the least, and sounded like they did on the records, if only a little more seasoned, in only the best way. While the other vocalists moved with manic stride around the stage, Joe moved with more calculated confidence, and he showed that he owned the stage.

Joe may not have been able to hit the high notes, but they were moved to a lower register, allowing him to sing more comfortably without shrieking, or sounding strained. DEF LEPPARD‘s harmonizing, always a trademark of the band, was well on full display throughout, and especially during their penultimate ballad Bringin’ On The Heartbreak.

Phill Collen, and Vivian Campbell looked, and played the part. Always incredible guitarists, seeing them live, as I had with Phil on the G3 tour, showed them to be the masters that they are. And Rick Savage? Well, he’s a fucking rock star, and looks it. Rick Allen is always inspiring to see perform, and he clearly demonstrated why he’s one of the best drummers in the pantheon of rock.

Having been born in the early 80s, I feel that I missed out on something with the fabled stadium tours that seemed prevalent throughout the decade. But with the stadium tour, and such legends as JOAN JETT, POISON, MÖTLEY CRÜE, DEF LEPPARD, and attention given to the future rock stars CLASSLESS ACT, it was nice to get a taste of that bygone era (without illicit substances anyway).

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin

Classless Act: https://facebook.com/classlessact
Joan Jett: https://www.facebook.com/joanjettandtheblackhearts
Poison: https://www.facebook.com/Poison
Motley Crue: https://www.facebook.com/MotleyCrue
Def Leppard: https://www.facebook.com/defleppard

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